A medium-sized tree to 40 feet tall and a short trunk up to 3 feet in diameter, with many crooked, interweaving, thorny branches that form a dense, spreading crown.
Native to East and Central Texas, it attains its largest size in the valley of the Red River in the northeast part of the state, often on clay soils. The species has been transplanted to many areas in Texas and elsewhere.
Simple, alternate, 3" to 5" long and 2" to 3" wide, ovate in shape and pointed at the tip, even at the base; leaf margin is smooth, and the top surface is glossy, dark green, lighter green underneath, and turning a clear yellow in the fall. The twigs are armed with stout, straight thorns and produce a sticky, milky sap when broken.
Male and female flowers borne on separate trees, in late spring; the male flowers form a short, linear cluster and the female flowers form a small, rounded ball in the leaf axils.
A large, spherical, green fruit -- actually an aggregate of many small seeds -- ranging from 4" to 5" in diameter, resembling a green, wrinkled orange. Common names for the fruit are "horse apple" and "hedge apple."
Thin, brown to orange, divided into strips or flakes on older trunks. The bark contains tannin and was once used for tanning leather.
Wood is heavy, exceedingly hard, and very durable in contact with the soil. The heartwood is bright orange in color, turning brown upon exposure to the air. It is largely used for fenceposts.
Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) has smaller leaves with faintly-toothed margins, and no thorns.
The common name, "bois d'arc" is French for "bow-wood," a reference to the use by Native Americans for bows and war clubs. This species was also widely distributed and planted to make hedgerows and livestock pens prior to the invention of barbed wire.